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The Third Sunday of Easter, Year A

On the Road Again

Readings: Acts 2:14a, 36-41; Psalm 116: 10-17; 1 Peter 1:17-23; Luke 24:13-35

On Easter evening, two of Jesus’ disciples were returning from Jerusalem to their village of Emmaus. It was a journey of seven miles, but with the terrible events of the last few days it seemed much further. The death of Jesus had plunged them into an impenetrable gloom. Their dreams about him being the long-awaited Messiah had been reduced to rubble. As they walked along they talked about his death. They went over it again and again. Looking at it from every possible angle, they still could not make sense of all that had happened. Especially they could not make sense of the rumours that had started to circulate, rumours about an empty tomb, about resurrection appearances.

Then a stranger joined them on their journey. And they found themselves opening up to this man, pouring out their grief to him. How easy it is sometimes to open up to someone you have never met before! They spoke about their deep longing for the Messiah, and the hope that had been stirred up in them when they met Jesus. They recounted the events which had shattered their illusions. “Some of the women even claim to have seen him alive!” they told him.

And then the stranger opened up the Scriptures to them. As they listened, they began to understand. It all began to fall into place for them. They arrived home, and offered the stranger hospitality. He accepted. They hustled around, putting food on the table and making the man welcome.

And then the journey to Emmaus ended unexpectedly, abruptly. Jesus, still a stranger to Mary and Cleopas, sat at table with them. He took bread, blessed it, and broke it. He offered it to them. In the gathering darkness of that first Easter evening, the flash of recognition came. How can you walk with someone you know and love for seven miles without realizing who it is? Yet it was not until he offered them bread that their eyes were opened. It was in the breaking of bread in all of its familiarity, that they were able to see with eyes of faith. And then just as quickly he was gone from their sight.

He was gone, but in that flash of recognition everything changed. They looked back on the experience remembering how their hearts had burned within them. And that encounter with the risen Christ moved them to action. They went back to Jerusalem as fast as they could travel. The seven miles seemed nothing. When they got there, they found the disciples. They shared the story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognized the risen Christ in the breaking of bread. And Mary and Cleopas on the road to Emmaus met Jesus on the road to God.

At Clericus earlier this week we were talking about this passage of Scripture. We were sharing our resonating stories. One of the clergy recounted his trip to the Middle East. He spoke no Arabic. The taxi driver who drove him from the airport to his hotel spoke very little English. The driver noticed his cross and showed him a tattoo on his arm. He explained in his broken English that the tattoo was their way, in a Muslim world, of showing that they were Christians. The priest asked the driver where he could go to church the following day. He could not get the man to understand. Finally he made the gesture of holding the bread and breaking it. There was an immediate recognition of what the priest wanted to know. The taxi driver arranged to take him to church on Sunday morning.

Like the disciples, we too may be on an Emmaus road. We may be going down a path that is sad and lonely. We may see Jesus as little more than a shadowy figure living in the musty pages of a Bible we scarcely open. When we do open it, it may be difficult to find any meaning in what we read. How can we feel his presence at our side? How can we come to know Jesus in a personal way? How can we come to understand that it is the Resurrected Christ in whose presence we live?

Jesus was made known to them through Scripture and Sacrament. And is that not how we come to know Jesus? As Anglicans the breaking of the bread speaks to us from the depths of our being. Sunday by Sunday we are invited to the table. We are invited to share in the family meal. Bread is broken and distributed. The cup is passed. Through word and sacrament we are brought into the presence of Christ.

For the disciples on the Emmaus road, it was their image of Christ that was faulty. They might have recognized Jesus, but the risen Christ was different somehow. They needed to see him with eyes of faith. It was in the breaking of bread that they were able to see.

How do we recognize a friend? Is it not their eccentricities, their unique qualities that enable us to recognize them even at a distance? Don’t you have a friend that you recognize before that person even enters the room? A footstep, an accent, the way the friend rings the doorbell? Or by the generosity of a gift that is the perfect gift? It can only be from … Or by some personal quality?

Do we recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread? Do we know his presence with us as we celebrate Eucharist? We acclaim it. Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. We affirm it in the creed. “We believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” But the real test is whether or not it makes a difference in our lives. Christ continues to speak to the Church through the Eucharist, through the Scriptures, and through our relationships with one another. We come together in worship. We share the body of Christ. And then we are sent out.

The rest is up to us. How do we share what has happened on our road to Emmaus? We all have a story to tell, but so many of us are silent. Like the disciples we need to make the choice to return to the city. We need to join the community of faith through which we are graced. We leave the Eucharistic liturgy in order to spread the good news and to break the bread of life with others. Only if this is done can Christ be recognized in the Christian community today.

So often we do not share because we are afraid that we will not know what to say. It does not take words; it takes actions. It takes relationships. We have seen the risen Christ! He is at work in our lives! Let us share that good news with a broken world that so badly needs to come into relationship with a loving God.

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